The Catalan government has decided to postpone some of its planned budget cuts until after the upcoming municipal council elections (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). With less than a month to go before the elections on May 22nd, the Generalitat has temporarily thrown in the towel on some of the issues that have caused the most contention and problems for the members of the Executive Council of the government and, by extension, for the 911 mayoral candidates standing from the governing Convergència i Unió party. The decision particularly affects four areas: firstly public hospitals, the proposed cuts to which have provoked a large number of demonstrations, won't have their budget cuts confirmed today as had been planned, with the Generalitat saying that more negotiations with trade unions are necessary; secondly, some members of the government will not appear today in the lower chamber of the Catalan parliament (including health minister Boi Ruiz and deputy president Joana Ortega), to avoid giving opposition parties the chance to criticise the image of the government through them; the future of Catalan inheritance tax won't be voted on until after the municipal elections following controversy that has been caused by it [as a result of the government going back on its election promise to completely eradicate it, to instead say that it will stay in place in certain cases]; finally, the government has announced that it won't show the actual budget figures being worked on by finance minister Andreu Mas-Colell until after May 22nd, saying that it doesn't yet know what amount of income it has to play with. The Generalitat will once again today ask the Spanish government for the more than €1.4 billion it says Catalunya is owed from a competitiveness fund, which the Zapatero administration has so far refused to pay.
A Catalan farmer has unwittingly rescused a local breed of goat from extinction (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). Although it was thought that the cabra catalana had died out in 2005, the farmer from the Pallars Jussà area (Lleida province) had a number of the animals in his herd, around half of which have now been bought by an association with the aim of safeguarding the breed's future. Antoni Pellisser, whose family has bred goats for many years close to the Montsec sierra, didn't know that he had around 40 of this breed, which has been particular to Catalunya and especially Lleida for centuries, amongst his herd. Now the Slow Food organisation has obtained 22 of the animals and transferred them to another part of Lleida province to undertake a conservation and reproduction project of the species to ensure its continuation. The first phase of the plan is to help the animals adapt to their new home, as they will now spend more time on the farm than grazing on mountains. Once they are settled in, there will be a period of breeding and selection of the best animals, whose milk will then be studied. Slow Food is hoping to start producing cheese using the goats' milk and will also put in place an 'adoption' scheme to help finance the conservation of the species, similar to that carried out a few years ago with the Catalan donkey.
A private school in Catalunya has started using a sniffer dog to detect drugs on its premises (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). The boarding-school in Tona, to the north of Barcelona and close to the Montseny natural park, has half its pupils in residence from Monday to Friday and has decided to deal with the issue of possible drug-taking by hiring three German shepherds, and their handlers. The private pilot scheme kicked off yesterday with the return to school following the Easter holidays. The school hasn't had a problem with drugs in the past but is concerned that students could become a target for dealers and so is taking the preventative action by hiring the dogs from the company APAK-9. With inspections of suitcases and the public areas of the school, the plan of the school's directors is to have an impact on the pupils with such measures to dissuade them from bringing drugs to the school, knowing that the dogs will sniff them out, and to let any dealers planning to target the students know that dogs are there. Some public schools in Catalunya have used sniffer dogs in the past, in collaboration with the police.